The head of public relations and social media programs for the North American arm of Hotels.com was doing me a favour, see, and I didn't want to offend or embarrass her with awkward questions about suspicious stains or annoyingly frisky neighbours or the secret meaning of "do not disturb" or...you get the idea.
That said, I did send her most of the questions, a dozen in all, with a request that she answer 10 of them. A few, I noted, are a bit edgy, or surly, or borderline rude. In short, they are burning. And that's the point of this exercise, right?
But to my surprise, and Taylor's great credit, she answered all of them without pulling punches and with plenty of good humour. Hotels.com doesn't actually own any of the 510,000-odd properties in nearly 20,000 destinations that it lists, but Taylor (pictured) sure knows a lot by association:
Q: Do hotels always sterilize the TV remotes?
A: Always? Absolutely not. Tip: Carry sanitizing wipes or use a damp, soapy washcloth to wipe down both the remote and the bedside phone if you plan to touch them during your stay.
Q: How often do you have to deal with bed bugs? No seriously, how often? No. SERIOUSLY.
A: Me personally? Only once out of thousands of hotel stays (I average at least three stays per month). On that occasion I walked into the room, pulled back the 1970s-style bedspread, noticed the freeloading non-paying guests, grabbed my bag and walked back to the lobby for a refund. Given that the hotel was in a remote area and I had an early meeting, I opted to sleep in my car! Of the thousands of customer inquiries we receive less than 1 per cent involves those blood-sucking critters!
Q: What happens if I decide to keep one of the terry-cloth robes?
A: The terry-cloth robe police will hunt you down! Seriously, in a survey we conducted, 47 per cent of Canadian hotel guests confessed that they have taken (and never returned) something from a hotel room. (Canucks beat U.S. guests by 1 per cent.) To answer your question, your credit card will be dinged to the tune of anywhere from $75 to $150, and sometimes more! If you ask first, however, many hotels sell their robes.
Q: If you leave the room clean does housekeeping clean it again in the same way they would if it were dirty?
A: I certainly hope so. In my experience, the housekeeping staff takes just as long cleaning a “clean” room as they do a dishevelled room. By and large, leaving your room in good condition is always a nice touch, plus you will likely avoid leaving personal items behind in the clutter.
Q: Why are there never enough hooks on the wall?
A: Good question. And why are the clothing hangers anti-theft? A bulky wooden hanger is the last thing I want to lug around in my suitcase!
Q: Do hotels start by assigning the low end rooms to guests first or do they start with assigning high end rooms first based on the pay scale?
A: In my experience, the most loyal or frequent customers will be offered the high-end rooms first but room availability at the time of check-in is a consideration as well. I also think it pays to be polite and ask for the type of room that you’d prefer, like a pool view, top floor, corner room, etc.
Q: Am I the only person who takes all the tea bags? Regardless, do the staff think less of me?
A: I’ve been known to take the tea bags home with me on more than one occasion. The staff may think less of you for various reasons, but taking a tiny camomile packet won’t ruin your reputation!
Q: What are the criteria by which the maids decide when I get a new towel? Only if on the floor? What about the bath mat (which is always on the floor)?
A: Towels on the floor get changed daily. Crumple up your bath mat in a towel and I bet they’ll change that, too!
Q: Why do most of you insist that I need to visit the front desk to check out? I just wanna leave the key card in my room and get out of there.
A: That’s an option. More hotels are offering online, remote or phone check-out and many have drop-boxes where you can leave your key. Maybe the front desk staff wants to see you just one last time!
Q: What's the most interesting hotel in the world that won't break the bank to stay in?
A: Since “interesting” is up to interpretation, my first recommendation is the 4.1 guest-rated Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, California. Each of the 110 rooms has a unique theme (think everything from a posh castle-like European-style room to a stone-cast fort with log bedding). Rates are as low as $240.
If you want to feel like a millionaire but keep more of your cash in your wallet, consider the Sparkling Hill Resort in Vernon, BC. It’s the first hotel in the world to feature 3.5 million crystal elements into its design. You’ll save on hot/cold breakfast, WiFi and parking – they’re all free and the relaxing wellness spa is spectacular. Hotels.com guests rate it Excellent at 4.5 out of 5 and rates are as low as $315 per night (but remember, you’re saving on a meal).
Q: Why does room service use miniature ketchup bottles instead of those little packs?
A: The bottles are much less messy. Who wants to pick up sticky packets and clean smeared ketchup stains off the carpet?
Q: What happens to the half-used toilet rolls in hotel rooms? I mean, it’s always a full roll when you arrive, right?
A: My neighbour wanted to weigh in on this one. Check out this photo from last weekend: